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Oceana Magazine Spring 2010: Making Waves

U.S. Government Proposes Loggerhead Uplisting To ‘Endangered’

In response to two petitions submitted in 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule in March to change the status of north Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles from “threatened” to “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

In addition to changing the status of loggerheads off the coasts of the U.S., the proposal triggers a review of possible protections for critical loggerhead habitat areas, including key nesting beaches, migratory corridors and where the animals feed in the ocean.

The announcement came as part of a government proposal to list loggerhead sea turtles around the globe as nine separate populations, each with its own threatened or endangered status.

The proposal is based on a 2009 Fisheries Service status review, which identified nine discrete loggerhead population segments and found both north Pacific and northwest Atlantic loggerheads “currently at risk of extinction.”

As a result of human-caused threats including commercial fishing and habitat degradation, loggerhead populations have declined by at least 80 percent in the northern Pacific and could become functionally or ecologically extinct by the middle of this century if additional protections are not enacted. Florida beaches, which host the largest nesting population in the northwest Atlantic, have seen loggerhead nesting decline more than 40 percent in the past decade.

In addition to demanding that the Fisheries Service protect sea turtles and their habitat under existing law, Oceana continues to call for comprehensive legislation that would protect U.S. sea turtles in the ocean as well as on beaches.


Chile Adopts Salmon Farming Reform

In March, the Chilean Congress passed groundbreaking legislation to prevent the escape of farmed salmon and further regulate the use of antibiotics in salmon aquaculture. The legislation is a direct result of Oceana’s two years of campaign work to address the environmental impacts of salmon farming.

Upwards of 10 million salmon are estimated to escape each year, and they can travel great distances and threaten the health of native fish populations by competing for food and transmitting parasites and diseases.

In early 2009, Oceana reported massive escapes that took place on December 31, 2008, when 750,000 salmon and trout escaped due to storms in southern Chile.

Some of the escaped salmon carried a virus called infectious salmon anemia, and undoubtedly infected nearby fish farms.

Many of the native species affected by escaped salmon are the target species for artisanal fishing, which results in economic losses estimated in the millions annually.

The reform criminalizes farmed salmon escapes, imposing hefty fines as well as prison sentences for violators. Salmon farms will be shut down after three violations in two years. In addition, within six months after the bill takes effect, the government will be required to issue new regulations to prevent escapes and mitigate their environmental impacts.

Oceana has already drafted a proposal to present to the government for consideration.

The reform also bans the preventive use of antibiotics, and requires companies to make public the amounts and types of antibiotics they use, in addition to the antibiotics’ prescribed purpose.


Marine Wildlife Spared From Drift Gillnets In Oregon

In December, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to stop issuing commercial fishing permits for drift gillnet gear used to target swordfish and thresher sharks in waters off the Oregon coast.

The decision, which effectively ends the use of the drift gillnets in Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of Oregon, came after Oceana testified before the commission on the dangers of using drift gillnets for targeting swordfish.

Drift gillnets are curtain-like nets up to a mile long that, in addition to their targeted catch, catch and kill sea lions, sharks, dolphins, endangered sea turtles, whales and other fish and wildlife.

70,000 Square Miles Proposed For Pacific Leatherbacks Protections

In January, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a proposed rule to designate more than 70,000 square miles of critical habitat for endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtles in the waters off California, Oregon and Washington.

The protections, which will be the first critical habitat designation for sea turtles in ocean waters off the continental U.S., were proposed in response to a petition submitted in September 2007 by Oceana, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Every summer and fall, Pacific leatherbacks migrate from their nesting grounds in Indonesia to the ocean waters off the U.S. west coast to feed on jellyfish. This 12,000-mile journey is the farthest known migration of any living reptile.

During the journey, leatherbacks face many threats, including capture in commercial fishing gear, ingestion of plastics, poaching, global warming and ocean acidification. Protection of their foraging habitats and migratory corridors is essential to their recovery.

While the proposal is a significant step forward for leatherbacks, it is not perfect. The government failed to include protections from entanglement in commercial fishing gear, which is a primary threat to the species.

In addition, the area proposed by NOAA excludes an expanse of leatherback foraging and migratory areas between the Umpqua River in Oregon and Point Arena in California.

NOAA must issue a final ruling on critical habitat within one year.


Texas Students Are 'Scared for Sharks'

In a spontaneous display of young ocean activism, the 2nd and 7th grade students at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas were inspired by Oceana’s “Scared for Sharks” campaign and teamed up to raise more than $2500 for Oceana’s shark campaign during a month-long service learning drive. The school sent the donation and a letter notifying Oceana of the students’ efforts.

The students held a week-long bake sale and had a “Caring Color Day,” in which students wore shark-colored apparel, such as a gray or blue t-shirt, to show solidarity, and brought in $2 for shark conservation.

To advertise their efforts, the students also made flyers with facts about sharks and urged their fellow students not to be scared of sharks, but scared for them.